Located at 60-77 Fresh Pond Rd., the Fresh Pond Pet Shop was purchased by new owners in November last year. According to neighbors, the shop is in poor condition and hours of operation are irregular and short.
On Friday, March 7, local resident Angela Connell mentioned in passing that the shop looked to be a little rough around the edges to a deli owner on the block, and he told her that it regularly opens late in the day.
Her interest was piqued, and so shortly after the store opened at 1:15 p.m. she went inside to see if the animals inside were being taken care of.
“I went in there and I started snapping pictures – not one of the animals had food and water. The [store owner] said ‘I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it,’” Connell said, going on to add that there was a pungent odor inside. “I couldn’t breathe, I had to put my scarf over my nose. The cat litter was full of urine and feces.”
Connell said at that point she began making phone calls to anyone and everyone she could think of who deals with animal cruelty and neglect cases.
“I called the Health Department, PITA, Humane Society – I was back and forth with a lot of different agencies,” Connell said.
When she spoke with the Health Department, Connell said they told her they’ve tried to check the place out several times but the shop has never been open when they’ve come calling.
A few days later, after continued community pressure, police visited the shop and taped a paper sign on the rolling gate notifying owners that the 104th Precinct must be contacted for the gate to be opened.
On Wednesday of last week, police accompanied the pet shop owners inside to inspect the premises while at the same time a NY1 reporter accompanied Jamie Raia and John Oliveira, a couple having trouble retrieving their mini-pincher from the Fresh Pond Pet Shop after boarding him there for the weekend.
Oliveira said he dropped Roo off at the shop on Friday before he and Raia left the city for a trip to his hometown of Bangor, Maine. The couple has owned 11-month-old Roo since July, and this was their first time boarding him. After Oliveira dropped their puppy off, Raia reported feeling anxious about leaving her dog at a kennel, so she called Efrain Martinez, who identified himself as one of the shop owners. He reassured her that everything would be fine, said Raia.
But when the couple returned from their trip and attempted to retrieve their pup, things got hairy.
“Off the bat, he said no, and continued to play games through text messages, saying things like, ‘Whatever I don’t care.’ Then he said the kid who was one of his workers had the dog,” Raia said. “When we went there I saw my dog in the for sale window. All I wanted to do was to board my dog for the weekend so me and my boyfriend could go away.”
When they were able to get Roo out of the building, they immediately took him to a nearby veterinary clinic. In the exam, which was complimentary “due to traumatic experience with store/boarding,” Roo was found to be stable with slight dehydration.
The veterinarian pointed out to the couple that kennels are required by law to check and verify vaccination records at check-in. According to Oliveira, he was not asked to provide up-to-date vaccination records when he dropped off Roo.
“Police responded to the location to address the community’s concerns,” said a representative from the NYPD. “Three criminal summonses were issued in regards.”
These summonses, the officer confirmed, were filed by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and include failing to post permit, failing to display a business certificate and [failure to complete] training.”
On Monday evening, the neighborhood was buzzing when the shop’s former groomer opened the gate, ran to the back of the store to put an animal into a carrying case, and then darted back out again, according Sallee Hannon, who lives across the street and adopted a chinchilla from the shop for free when it was found they were not permitted to sell the animals.
She reported that no one had previously entered the premises for a several day span, and there were still animals inside, contrary to a previous police report that all animals had been removed.
To investigate this discrepancy, DCPI sent an officer to the scene who reportedly confirmed one cat, a shop cat that was not for sale, was present in the store. The officer reported that former groomer was feeding and taking care of the cat, but Hannon’s take on things was different.
“She was in and out in four minutes before I could walk across the avenue. She ran to the back of the store, got a cat in her [carrying] case and left,” Hannon said. “I was able to look inside before she shut the gate again and I saw all the fish inside were dead.”
Raia and Oliveira announced Monday that they plan to file a civil suit against the shop for endangering Roo, who they – like many pet owners – consider to be a part of their family, not just an animal.
Hannon also said Monday that she and several other members of the community planned to visit the 104th Precinct on Tuesday to file criminal charges against the shop.
Neither the shop owners Efrain Martinez and Kim Ruiz, nor the building owner Joseph Corsini, responded to requests for comment as of press time.